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What you need to know about finances and wellbeing for older people October 2020

news for UK seniors

Our round-up of latest news affecting the senior members of society. Stories include:

  • What future for cash?
  • Royal mail to pick up parcels from home
  • State pensions to rise next spring
  • Heating cost help
  • Launch of veterans railcard
  • Appliance cover and sharp practices
  • Supporting good mental health
  • British cities lead world for dementia strategies

The future for cash

Fear of handling real money in the days of coronavirus is driving us faster and further into a cashless society than we were expecting. That’s bad news for those who aren’t comfortable with debit or credit cards to pay for goods and services. And it’s a problem that’s compounded by the closing of bank branches and ATMs, forcing people to travel long distances to conduct cash transactions with their banks. The Post Office has announced that a third of its cash machines will close by March 2022. But the UK government promised to help protect cash in a recent budget, and now it has set out how it’s going to do that. For starters it looks like local shops could offer cashback without customers having to actually buy anything. The idea, which is currently under consultation, hasn’t received a wholeheartedly positive reception from the retail industry, which is worried about the investment needed at a time when they are already in difficulties.

Meanwhile, the chancellor is planning to hand responsibility of the UK’s retail cash system to the Financial Conduct Authority, so that individuals as well as small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from the cash systems. More developments are expected in the near future.

Parcel pick up from home service

Good news for those who want to send parcels but aren’t keen to visit post offices or other drop-off points. The Royal Mail has launched a doorstep collection service, with customers paying 72p on top of standard postage costs per package to have their packages collected from their homes. There are limits to the number, size and weight of packages, but it could be a good solution to sending gifts, for example. The downside? You can only make bookings online.

State pensions to rise

State pensions are due to rise by 2.5% in April 2021, thanks to the continuing ‘triple lock’. If confirmed, that means

  • The ‘old’ basic-rate state pension will rise by £3.40 a week from £134.25 to £137.65
  • The ‘new’ flat-rate state pension will rise by £4.40 a week from £175.20 to £179.60

Meeting the cost of heating

Here’s another good reason to check whether your older family or friends qualify for pension credit or are on a low income. Around a million pensions are expected to be eligible for a one-off discount of £140 on their electricity bills as part of the Warm Home Discount scheme. Around 50 energy suppliers are participating in the scheme, and 95% of those eligible for the scheme should receive their discount automatically, says the Department of Work and Pensions.

Meanwhile energy firms are being required to offer emergency credit to pre-payment customers who are struggling to top up their meter. From 15 December supplies must issue credit to pre-payment customers who are temporarily unable to afford top-ups, have mobility problems or a self-isolating. This is good news particularly for the 2.8m households that are entering winter already in debt to their energy supplier.

Railcard discounts for military veterans

The Veterans Railcard has just been launched, giving military veterans a third off most train travel from 5 November 2020 for an initial cost of £21 for a year. It joins a wide range of railcards available to train users, including the over 60s. (I bought a two-year card last year – not used it quite as much as I had expected after cancelling visits to people and places during lockdown and beyond, and British Rail has made it clear there will be no refunds.) Veterans can apply for the cared on the Veterans Railcard website.

Scamming and sharp practices

Sadly, there’s almost always a new story about yet more ways that sharp dealers are finding to cheat older and vulnerable people. This month the Which? consumer service has reported that they’ve received nearly 150 complaints about cold calls from firms offering cover for washing machines and other appliances. It seems multiple firms are working together to sell unneeded cover.

Elsewhere, the Charity Commission is warning trustees and donors of charities to strengthen defences amid concerns that the pandemic has made charity fraud easier. Fraudsters are thought to be preying on the desire of charities to place goodwill and trust in individuals. The warning comes at a time when charities are finding it hard to maintain levels of donations to support their work.

Do not resuscitate orders reviewed

After some dreadful stories earlier in the year that elderly and vulnerable people were being subject to ‘do not resuscitate’ orders, it’s good to hear that the Care Quality Commission is to review the use of these orders. The CQC says ‘Along with partners we have been clear that it is unacceptable for advance care plans, with or without Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) form completion, to be applied to groups of people of any description. These decisions must continue to be made on an individual basis according to need. Through this review we will look to identify and share best practice in this complex area, as well as identifying where decisions may not have been patient-centred and ensuring mistakes are not repeated.’ For a lawyer’s perspective, take a look at this blog.

Mental health support

Watching high-quality nature programmes on television can be a mood booster, according to research from the University of Exeter. The study looked at the effects of watching nature on TV and using virtual reality headsets. All three appeared to help with reducing sadness and boredom, and the VR experience actually seemed to increase happiness.

The UK government has also published guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of the coronavirus.

Dementia in the community

London, Glasgow and Manchester have been named as the top three world cities best addressing dementia. The study looked at factors such as innovation, detection and diagnosis, access to care, community support and business environment.

Worth a read

 

Photo by he gong on Unsplash

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